In the years preceding the mid-1980s, lawyers working in large firms with foreign branch offices in notable financial capitals such as London and Hong Kong were the main practitioners of international law. Global economic expansion has influenced the growth of international law. Plus, initiatives by international and regional organizations such as the United Nations and European Union and non-governmental organizations, such as the Friends of the Earth have developed programs aimed at improving international justice systems, thus providing international lawyers with various employment opportunities.
Handling Business Matters
International lawyers have an opportunity to practice law in corporations and other businesses with foreign branch offices. They handle legal matters such as employees’ immigration issues, mergers and acquisitions, and harmonizing a business’ regulations with international trade policies. Such lawyers also ensure that firms understand international laws that regulate their area of trade.
International lawyers specializing in criminal law serve as prosecutors, or defense lawyers for persons accused of international crimes such as crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. The International Court of Justice established under the Rome Statute handles such investigations and prosecutions for its signatories. The United Nations also sets up ad hoc courts and tribunals like the Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to prosecute persons charged with international war crimes.
Human Rights Litigation
International human rights lawyers prosecute and litigate international human rights matters like violations of rights for refugees, minorities and citizens in war crime areas. The United Nations, European Union and non-governmental organizations such as Human Rights Watch have various programs advocating for protection of international human rights where lawyers can work. Their lawyers draft the requisite legal documents and participate in investigations on human rights violations.
Teaching and Research
International lawyers can conduct lectures in universities or institutions on international law, and participate in global law research programs. Examples of international academia centers include The Council on Foreign Relations, Freedom House in America, and the British Institute of International and Comparative Law. An international lawyer can combine academia and research with his practice. The American Society for International Law is a recourse that provides available job opportunities for international lawyers seeking to engage in academia and research.
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